Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said protecting the automotive industry is key in the provincial government’s approach to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Wynne said she is “pleased” that New York has dropped proposed Buy American provisions from its state budget, but she remained concerned on the weekend about U.S. protectionism and uncertainty about NAFTA.
Wynne and Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid have been increasingly vocal about their concerns over signs of increasing protection in the U.S., not only in Buy American policies, but also speculation about a border adjustment tax and rhetoric about the pending renegotiation of NAFTA.
But despite calling for free trade, Wynne and Duguid have said there will be things Ontario will want to "protect" in talks on NAFTA.
"The thing is, in free trade agreements there's always a give-and-take, in terms of particular sectors and particular jurisdictions," said Wynne. "That's why it's so important that we be at the table, and close to the conversations."
It's the same approach Ontario took in Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), she said.
"Auto and agriculture are two that will always be important to Ontario in these discussions, and we just need to make sure we find the right balance while being a free-trading jurisdiction," she said.
Wynne has been meeting with Ontario industry leaders and found there are different opinions on NAFTA, with some wanting to see no change at all, to tweaks, to very dramatic changes, she said.
Wynne met with 15 auto and labour leaders — and one government of Mexico official — on March 23 to strategize about NAFTA talks.
"In Ontario, our auto sector, our agriculture and food processing sectors, are very much tied to those American export markets, and very integrated into the American economy," she said. "So we will be watching in those areas and giving our input into the federal government every step of the way."
Wynne went to Illinois Monday to talk about trade with the business community and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
She has already met with the governors of Michigan and Vermont, and spoken with governors of Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee, as part of a strategy to win over high-profile allies to Ontario's views on trade.
Wynne said she doesn't want Ontarians to have to worry about protectionism threatening Ontario's economy.
"It is an uncertain time, there's no doubt about that and it's very important that, as premier, I play very close attention to, and put resources into, that protection of our interests _ not protection of our border, but protection of our interests," she said.